Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yemen says youth militias formed to fight al-Qaida


Associated Press

Sunday, Jul. 3, 2011

SANAA, Yemen -- Yemeni officials say the government has formed special youth militias to prevent militants linked to al-Qaida from gaining a foothold in the strategic southern port city of Aden.

The officials said Sunday there are signs that the presence of al-Qaida linked militants in Aden is growing. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Authorities in Aden spotted a newly created militant training camp, officials say. They have also detected attempts by militants in Aden to store large amounts of weapons and explosives in rented apartments and houses.

Saleh clings to power while unrest rises in south

By Amena Bakr and Mohammed Ghobari

RIYADH/SANAA | Sun Jul 3, 2011

RIYADH/SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen's president, in hospital in Riyadh, will not cede power until he returns to oversee a transition, a Yemeni cabinet official said Sunday, extending a period of political limbo.

The fractious Arabian Peninsula state has been paralyzed by six-months of mass protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade rule. After surviving an assassination attempt last month, Saleh went to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

As Saleh clings to power and the political impasse drags on, the southern Abyan province has descended into violence with militants suspected of ties to al Qaeda seizing two cities.

The United States and neighboring Saudi Arabia fear a power vacuum in the impoverished country that sits on the border of the world's top oil exporter and which hosts an al Qaeda branch that has launched failed attacks on U.S. and Saudi targets.

They have been pushing for an immediate power transfer.

The cabinet official visiting the president Sunday told Reuters Saleh planned to support a Gulf Arab transition plan that has already collapsed three times when the president backed out of signing at the last minute.

"Saleh plans to support the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal and he asked the foreign minister to do everything to make the plan succeed," said the official, who asked not to be further identified. "But in order for the power to be transitioned, the president has to be in Yemen."

He also said Saleh expected to manage the transition himself: "To have a proper election you would need six to eight months and during that period Saleh will still be president."

Analysts have said the suspected bomb planted in Saleh's mosque last month would prevent the 69-year-old leader from resuming power even though it did not kill him.

Opposition groups and the hundreds of thousands protesting across Yemen want an immediate change in government, which Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has run in Saleh's absence.

"Saleh's return has become impossible and if his health improved, which I doubt, we say to him, stay where you are and take the rest of your family with you," said Samia al-Aghbari, a prominent activist in Taiz, south of the capital, where tens of thousands camp out daily.

"They want to burn this country to the ground."

Despite the defection of several military leaders and hundreds of troops, Saleh's son remains in control of the powerful Republican Guard that protesters in Taiz say tried to attack their camp Saturday night. Armed tribesmen defending the protesters shot dead four soldiers and wounded 12 others.


With political talks at a standstill, Yemen is planning to step up military action, hoping to retake areas lost to Islamist militants and armed tribesmen amid rising unrest in the Arab world's poorest country.

The Defense Ministry has placed a security belt around the southern port city of Aden, which sits near the entry to a shipping lane that channels some 3 million barrels of oil daily.

Aden residents, seeing thousands of refugees pouring in over recent weeks, worry violence could spread from neighboring Abyan, where clashes are erupting daily. Abyan residents complain of severe fuel, food and water shortages.

A military base just outside the militant-controlled provincial capital of Zinjibar said it has been under siege for more than a month. It appealed Sunday for help from the state, which has yet to send reinforcements.

"We have been blockaded for over a month and have not received human reinforcements, equipment, or even a drop of water in over two weeks," military officer at the embattled base, Khaled Noamani, told Reuters by telephone.

He said some 15 militants and 10 soldiers were killed and dozens injured Sunday during fierce clashes outside the base.

In Sanaa, acting president Hadi said Yemen would repair pipelines in the oil-producing Maarib province. Tribesmen blew up an empty line last week, after shutting down the main pipeline in an attack in March.

The Defense Ministry Saturday said it would send troops to chase down the "terrorist elements" behind the attacks, which halted Yemen's 110,000 barrel-per-day output.

Tribesmen have blockaded the area, costing the government millions of dollars a day in lost exports and sparking a severe fuel crisis, hours-long power outages, and rocketing prices in a country where 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

The shortages have begun to spark violence, with clashes breaking out over fuel at petrol stations over the weekend.

South Yemen air strikes 'kill two civilians'

July 3, 2011 (AFP)

ADEN, Yemen — Yemeni air strikes targeting suspected Al-Qaeda militants near Jaar killed two civilians and wounded three, an official from the militant-held southern town said on Sunday.

"Military aircraft carried out a number of strikes yesterday (Saturday) in the Al-Makhzan area at the entrance of Jaar," the official told AFP in the main southern city of Aden without elaborating on how he got the information.

"One of them hit the house of Omar Hassan, killing him and wounding three others."

Another civilian was killed in a separate strike, the official added.

The strikes targeted a building that formerly housed Chinese doctors but is now controlled by the militants, the official said.

Jaar lies in Abyan province, north of the provincial capital Zinjibar, where Yemeni forces have been engaged in heavy fighting with suspected Al-Qaeda fighters.

A commander said on Saturday that 50 Yemeni troops have been posted as missing after clashes with Islamist militants around Zinjibar.

"We have lost all trace of 50 soldiers after an attack by Al-Qaeda elements enabled them to recapture control of the Al-Wahda stadium" outside Zinjibar, the commander serving with the 25th Mechanised Brigade told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He was unable to specify whether the troops had been killed, captured or deserted in the battle for the stadium which the army had recaptured from the militants only Friday.

The commander accused the defence ministry of abandoning the brigade's soldiers to their fate in the face of repeated attacks by the militants of the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic Law) movement who seized much of Zinjibar in late May.

The Sanaa government says the militants are allied with Al-Qaeda but the opposition accuses it of playing up a jihadist threat in a desperate attempt to keep embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh in power.

Yemen to repair oil pipe soon -acting president

Sun Jul 3, 2011

DUBAI, July 3 (Reuters) - Yemen will repair a damaged oil pipeline in coming days, the country's acting president was quoted as saying by the state news agency on Sunday.

Yemen's main oil pipeline has been shut since an attack by tribesmen in mid-March, while another standing empty since the March incident was blown up last week. [ID:nLDE76101H]

"The repair of the oil pipeline will be carried out within the coming days in addition to the import of big quantities of import of crude oil and products," Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said during a meeting with Britain's ambassador to Yemen.

The state news agency gave no further details.

A Yemeni official told Reuters last week the government was considering a military operation to take control of the area if local tribesmen did not allow the main Marib crude pipeline to be repaired soon. [ID:nLDE75R0ML]

The lack of oil flowing from fields in the Maarib province has forced Yemen's Aden refinery to halt, cut the poorest Arab country's revenues and forced it to import more costly fuel.

The loss of light, sweet Yemeni crude has also further squeezed global supplies of easily-refined oil after light Libyan exports were stopped in February.

Political leaders both for and against Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh's embattled government have accused each other of backing armed tribesmen to act as saboteurs.

Saleh is recovering in Riyadh from injuries sustained in a June assassination attempt.

Besieged South Yemen brigade appeals for help

By Mohammed Mukhashaf

ADEN, Yemen | Sun Jul 3, 2011

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - An army brigade in south Yemen, trapped on its base since Islamist militants seized a nearby town, appealed for help on Sunday and said it needed troop reinforcements, weapons and water.

Mass protests demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade rule and a political impasse have paralyzed Yemen. The southern Abyan province has descended into violence with militants suspected of ties to al Qaeda challenging military control.

In recent months, militants have seized control of two cities in Abyan, including the provincial capital Zinjibar. Last week they gained control of a stadium outside Zinjibar which the army had been using for refueling and supplies.

From a base just a few km outside Zinjibar, officer Khaled Noamani said his brigade had sent an urgent plea for help.

"We call on the country to send support to the troops of the 25th brigade, we have been blockaded for over a month and have not received human reinforcements, equipment, or even a drop of water in over two weeks," he told Reuters by telephone. "There are battles here day and night."

Noamani said militants positioned atop buildings near the base had blockaded the brigade of several hundred troops.

The United States and neighboring Saudi Arabia have been targets of foiled attacks by al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing and worry the power vacuum from a six-month struggle between protesters and the government may give the group more room to operate.

Opposition groups accuse the government of intentionally letting the violence escalate in order to frighten the international community that Yemen would collapse into chaos without Saleh at the helm.

Saleh is recovering in Riyadh from wounds sustained in an assassination attempt last month, but has signaled he will cling to power despite analysts' expectations he will be unable to retake the reins.

Yemen's Defense Ministry said on Saturday it would step up military operations and will deploy a security belt around the southern port city of Aden, entry way to the strategic Red Sea shipping lane where some 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.

Aden residents fear the militant threat spreading from Abyan, where dozens have been killed as clashes erupt daily. Residents say they are suffering from food, water and power shortages, and thousands have fled to Aden for refuge.